When considering how most people in south-central Kentucky can find themselves behind bars, substance abuse is inevitably at the top of the list.
While treatment options are becoming more available, those who are incarcerated do not always have the same access to care.
That is changing in Pulaski County with the January hiring of Christy Fox, a full-time mental health counselor who was charged with the task of creating an in-house treatment program at the local detention center by Jailer David Moss.
“What we’re really shooting for is to help change lives,” Moss said. “We really want to help an individual leaving our facility fit back into the community.”
The result is the GREEN program, so named by the inmates themselves and standing for: Growing, Re-directing, Educating, Experiencing, New Life.
GREEN, which got underway on March 2, combines mental, physical and spiritual therapeutic techniques. While various support groups from the community continue to come into the jail for weekly meetings, the program is largely peer driven with the participants working together to incorporate elements such as phase work (steps), accountability, group and art therapy from standard programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery and Genesis for an approach that’s unique to the group.
Fox currently works with four groups, for which there is a waiting list. To apply, inmates must write an essay about why they need help and how addiction has impacted their lives.
GREEN is open to county, state and federal inmates. For state inmates, the Department of Corrections can shorten a successful participant’s sentence by 90 days.
“I can serve as a character witness for federal inmates,” Fox said. “County inmates can just use it as a learning experience unless they become state inmates [upon sentencing]. It’s all voluntary.”
Once admitted, participants are housed together with other incentives given as an individual works through GREEN’s three phases.
Three of the groups participate in phase work from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the exception of the men’s work-release group which must do their GREEN class work in the evenings.
A major component of GREEN is having someone who has “phased up” mentor newer members.
“I’ve been in from the start,” one of the male participants told the newspaper. “It blesses me to see the changes these guys have made. I’ve never been in an environment like this in other jails or prison.”
The last phase is focused on reintegration into the community. Fox pointed to one particular success story of a participant who was released and is now employed and attending church, though she noted religion is not a mandatory component of the program.
“It’s all about positive and negative reinforcement,” Fox said. “They are evaluated and move in when they are ready. You can lose what you’ve earned. We don’t force participation and you’ll weed yourself out if you’re not ready.”
Jailer Moss has been pleased with the program thus far and hopes to soon hire another counselor so GREEN may be expanded. Jail officials are also working to expand the GED program.
“It’s all about giving these individuals the tools they need and getting their minds on the positive,” Moss said. “It’s been such a blessing.”